In this new blog series, the Enough Project will share updated reports and coverage on the emerging conflict in South Sudan. We plan to highlight a range of issues, including human rights violations, humanitarian concerns, and key actions by the international community, as well as feature South Sudanese voices and our own work toward supporting solutions.
What was largely a political crisis within the ruling party in South Sudan mutated into a violent conflict on December 15, 2013, reigniting ethnic tensions between Nuer and Dinka throughout South Sudan. Fighting spread beyond the capital, and violence between the two groups has resulted in the deaths of thousands and displacement of upwards of one million people. On January 23, 2014 a Cessation of Hostilities agreement was signed between the Government of South Sudan and opposition forces and seven out of the 11 political detainees were released on January 29. These are just the first steps, however, on the long road to sustainable peace in South Sudan.
Human rights violations and documentation
- A January Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documented that hundreds of strategic attacks and human rights abuses against civilians on an ethnic basis had taken place in both government and opposition-controlled areas since December 15, 2013. HRW researchers interviewed victims and witnesses, who described clashes in densely populated areas, targeted attacks and killings of civilians from both government and militia forces, and the complete destruction of numerous cities and towns. The civilian death toll requires further in-depth investigation, but many of the streets were “littered with dead bodies.”
- The latest UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report estimates that 723,900 people are displaced inside South Sudan, with the largest increase in Unity State, and 145,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, totalling 868,900 people displaced as of February 10. Sporadic clashes were reported in rural areas of Lakes, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states following the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities. Aid organizations are also calling for $1.27 billion for relief programs in the coming five months.
- The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is reporting that 3.7 million people now facing acute or emergency levels of food insecurity and that the situation will be “further exacerbated if farmers miss the main planting season that begins in March.” FAO is implementing an emergency response plan, but has only received $4.25 million of the $77 million needed to implement the plan.
- Health, water, and sanitation challenges are rising. Of particular concern is a measles outbreak which caused at least 30 child deaths at an UNMISS camp. UNICEF’s fast response allowed for approximately 4,000 children to be vaccinated against measles and polio in a short 3-day campaign.
- IRIN has created an interactive page featuring text, maps, and videos covering the political power struggle, the conflict, and steps toward peace.
South Sudanese voices
- South Sudanese actress and model, Kuoth Wiel, wrote for the Enough Project blog saying “As South Sudanese, we worked hard to persevere through two civil wars. Now, our chance to have freedom and prosperity is threatened by political tension and ethnic division.”
- With over half a million people displaced, hearing South Sudanese voices, specifically voices of civilians, is ever-important in analyzing the crisis. The Mayor of Bor, Nhial Majak Nhial, said to a BBC reporter, “my heart bleeds…[Bor] was South Sudan's dream town – now it's brought down to ashes.”
- On January 10, 2014, three weeks after the South Sudan crisis began—as peace talks stalled in Addis Ababa and the death toll continued to grow—representatives of South Sudanese civil society met in Nairobi to discuss the crisis, its historical roots, and the possibility of peace.
Enough Project work
- New DigitalGlobe satellite images acquired on February 2, 2014 confirms at least one violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by South Sudan's combatant forces less than two weeks ago. Imagery of Leer town in Unity state, which journalists and aid workers have been unable to visit since the latest bout of violence, shows huts engulfed in flames.
- On January 24, 2014, the Satellite Sentinel Project released a report which offers documentation of strategic and intentional destruction of civilian areas, which could be characterized as war crimes. Satellite images show over 200 tukuls burned to the ground in one part of town. Meanwhile, images collected in January have validated the looting of a World Food Program compound.
- In an op-ed for the Daily Beast, Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast and Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst Akshaya Kumar suggested that, “Through an enhanced diplomatic presence, apolitical technical assistance to the mediation process, a commitment to empowering South Sudanese civil society involvement and a push for genuine accountability, the U.S. government once again has a real opportunity to make an impact on South Sudan's future.”
Read Enough Project policy reports on Sudan and South Sudan.